The teenage revolution driving Queensland Country - and the Reds’ future

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Harry Wilson, Tom Kibble and Jordan Petaia are barely old enough to vote but they’re already giving Queensland fans a glimpse into the future of the Reds.

The trio were part of the QLD I Schools side last year, and though still only 18, they'll all be lining up for the QLD Country side against the Drua in the NRC final this weekend in Fiji.

Petaia’s star has already well and truly risen after a breakout Super Rugby season put him on the Wallabies radar but he is just the tip of the iceberg in this Country team.

Lock/Flanker Wilson was recently signed to a full-time Reds contract and openside Kibble has done his chances no harm after an impressive NRC campaign.

Queensland Country coach Rod Seib mentored the three in the 2017 QLD I schools side and admitted even he was surprised how quickly they had all developed, particularly the two forwards.

“I was really impressed with their character and maturity at schoolboy level but certainly the last 12 months you can just see physically how that really developed and how hard they worked.

“They're three guys who are really tough competitors.

“To one extent I'm not that surprised but it is quite surprising to have three guys who were at school last year in an NRC competition.

“It’s probably more likely someone in an outside back position to make the step up but for someone in the back row to be stepping up a year out of school and performing at that NRC level is quite a testament to the character of those two blokes (Wilson and Kibble).”

Petaia has already tasted some Wallabies squad time, named in the national squad ahead of the first Bledisloe Cup match in Sydney and he is right in the mix to be named on the tour to Europe.

Seib said Petaia would deserve a Test shot but equally would benefit from a full professional preseason in Brisbane.

“I certainly think a Wallaby jersey is in Jordy's future,” he said.

“As to the timing of that, that's something for people above me to work that out but i certainly think it's been a massive year for Jordy, when you think just last year he was playing schools footy.

“I can understand just through watching him on the field how people might think he should be wearing the Wallabies jersey and quite rightly so but it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if he did do a good preseason and let fire for the Reds next year.

“If he does get an opportunity in this Spring Tour then I'm sure he'll do really well because every opportunity he's had, you've seen what he's capable of.”

Jordan Petaia is in Bledisloe camp. Photo: Getty ImagesNow that the trio have established themselves in the NRC, Seib had no issue suggesting the core of this Country team could go on to be the Reds spine in years to come.

“No doubt, without a doubt,” Seib said.

“Above all, they're all really good guys so they're really good human beings

“Obviously in team sports sometimes you get guys who try and perhaps play for themselves ahead of the team whereas in this instance these guys, they haven't whinged, they've never moaned, they just get on with hard work and such a great attitude.

“I have no hesitation in suggesting that a lot of these blokes will go on to play a lot of Super Rugby games and potentially Wallabies.”

Brisbane City have had their fair share of success since the NRC’s inception and they have some promising next-gen figures among their numbers but it’s the Country talent that has shaped as most impressive in the past two seasons.

It says a lot about this outfit that 20-year-old Hamish Stewart is almost an old head among the team and Seib said the man widely tipped as the Reds’ next long-term flyhalf was showing his leadership qualities among the side.

“I'd probably describe them as a really quiet, humble group, which in one way is great because they're so easy to work with but as they are quite quiet you need someone who's on the field who's going to give them direction and that's certainly the role that Hamish has fulfilled throughout the year,” he said.

“He is someone who is a leader by nature. So, he is someone where we talks people with him.

“It's really good he's been out there guiding us around and certainly his game management has grown throughout the season as I think we've come together as a squad.

“He's been really impressive - he's one who no doubt will have a big future.”

Queensland Country hosts Melbourne in Townsville. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Reds confirmed their 2019 playing squad this week with a few holes left to fill, and a handful of development contracts still to hand out.

Karmichael Hunt a notable appearance in the backs announced on Wednesday, though it seems unlikely coach Brad Thorn’s stance has changed on selecting the utility back.

Thorn didn’t pick Hunt in any matches in 2018 after he was charged with drug possession in December last year.

Hunt is still a contracted Queensland player in 2019 and is part of their official squad but that is no guarantee that he will Super Rugby next season.